When Petr Čech joined, I was very happy.
Surely it didn’t come as a surprise, as speculations went on for a couple of transfers windows, but I remember how satisfied I was, how happy I felt to finally have a top-class goalkeeper at the Club.
Given his age, the Czech wasn’t a long-term choice but his goalkeeping skills, stature and experience were finally fixing the ever-lasting goalkeeping problem for the Arsenal; after years of Almunia, Fabianski, Szczesny and Ospina (and even Lehmann and Seaman, I would say), it felt good to know that we had a top-class player between the sticks.
When John Terry famously declared that his former team-mate would win us ten to fifteen points, many felt he was exaggerating but I thought Petr Čech could be that good – and his first season has been magnificent.
After a calamitous debut against West Ham, he produced a long string of excellent saves and often kept us alive in games where opponents were breaking us too easily: who remembers the amazing save against Liverpool at home, when he denied Benteke from point-blank range? Who remembers the unbelievable reaction to the Laurent Koscielny own-goal attempt at Norwich City?
There are many more, also in Europe, and it was pleasant to see him picking up the Golden Glove award at the end of last season.
The story seems a bit different this year, though: he looks less-assured and slower, compared to last season, and hasn’t the same calming influence he seemed to have; basically, it looks like age is finally catching-up on him.
Also, we’ve all noticed the dangerous tendency from the big Czech to concede on his near post, as highlighted by Fraser against Bournemouth and Sterling against Manchester City; those goals are unusual for a player of his quality and could have been avoided rather easily.
Should we start worrying about the former Rennes and Chelsea shot-stopper, then?
In my opinion, he’s still among the best in his role, despite his age and recent errors, and
this season’s numbers are still placing Petr Čech among the top goalkeepers in the Premier League for saves per goal and clean sheets, which is encouraging and slightly surprising, seen the recent dip in form from our goalkeeper (see below).
I think that talks about his replacement are coming too early, also because of how the market looks, these days.
Finding a very good goalkeeper must be very difficult, if you consider that Juventus and Italy are still playing Gianluigi Buffon at 200 years of age and someone like Claudio Bravo represented top Clubs like FC Barcelona and Manchester City.
With Manuel Neuer, Jan Oblak, Thibaut Courtois and David de Gea, perhaps the best goalkeepers around, not for sale and Hugo Lloris very unlikely to move from Seven Sisters road to Holloway road, there aren’t many options available.
Of course we could take a gamble on Mattia Perin – Italy’s brightest prospect, who broke both his knees in consecutive years – or Yoan Cardinale of OGC Nice, but we’d find ourselves with another unproven player on hand and a lot of uncertainty, something that sounds like old Arsenal, really.
What if we already have the ideal candidate?
Wojciech Szczesny is currently playing the best football of his career while on loan at AS Roma and seems to have left his attitude problems behind him, for good. His performances make him the best goalkeeper in Italy (see below) and place him virtually on par with a certain Manuel Neuer, which makes him a strong candidate to take over from Petr Čech, when the time comes.
I know Wojciech Szczesny has a history of troubles, mistakes, cigarettes and outspoken interviews but I must admit I agree with Arseblog when he says that goalkeepers should be a little bit mad and I believe he deserves a second chance at the Arsenal, also because of his deep love for the Club.
He’s entering the prime years of his career and was once described by Arsène Wenger as someone who “has the potential to be a historical goalkeeper for Arsenal Football Club.”, it would be a bit silly to let him go now.
Thirty-something Italian, currently in Switzerland. Gooner since mid-ninties, when the Gunners defeated my hometown team, in Copenhagen. Twelve years ago I started my own blog (www.clockenditalia.com) after after some experiences with Italian websites and football magazines. Debate, don’t insult or you’re out.